Anthropology Colloquia Series: Dr. David Lawson presents The Behavioral Ecology of ‘Child Marriage’: Marriage, Wellbeing and Fitness in Rural Tanzania.


Start Date: Jan 30, 2019 - 03:30pm

Location: Hibben Center 105

Dr. David Lawson, evolutionary anthropologist and population health scientist at University of California Santa Barbara, will present a talk entitled The Behavioral Ecology of ‘Child Marriage’: Marriage, Wellbeing and Fitness in Rural Tanzania.

Abstract: Female marriage under 18 years is cross-culturally common, was historically ubiquitous, and remains legal with parental consent and/or judicial approval in the majority of countries worldwide. It is also the subject of an international End Child Marriage movement which emphasizes its harmful consequences for girls and young women. Early marriage is primarily viewed as the product of a parent-offspring conflict in optimal outcomes, with parents benefiting economically from the early marriage of their daughters. In this talk, I question the assumptions of the End Child Marriage movement, and examine the potential strategic motivations that motivate transitions to marriage for girls/young women. Drawing on mixed-method field research in northwestern Tanzania, where marriage under or just over 18 is normative, I present evidence that, in this context, early marriage serves the interests of both daughters and their parents, and is likely to be fitness maximizing even where wellbeing is reduced. I conclude by considering the implications of these findings, questioning their generalizability to alternative cultural contexts, and discussing our plans for further investigation into the drivers and consequences of ‘child marriage’.

Dr.David Lawson (University of California, Santa Barbara) is an evolutionary anthropologist and population health scientist with interests in the family, childhood and human well-being, particularly in the context of the social and demographic changes that accompany economic development. His research combines field studies in rural Tanzania with analysis of existing large-scale demographic survey data from both African and European contexts.



*Please note: This is the same day as the Ancestors Lecture by Dr. Melissa Emory Thompson, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Co-Director of the Comparative Human and Primate Physiology Center at UNM. The Ancestors Lecture will be at 7:30 in Hibben 105.